In a previous life, I made tiramisu almost every day. A rich, creamy, boozy, fully-caffeinated tiramisu. One whiff, and you’d be awake for three days. It was a heavyweight. So, I was looking forward to trying Dorie Greenspan’s Tiramisu Cake to see if you could get that tiramisu flavor in a lighter version, one without the hassles of soaking and balancing individual ladyfingers on their ends.

Because creating that ring of vertical ladyfingers encircling the tiramisu, with exactly three ladyfingers per slice, was once the bane of my existence. They break. They shift.

Swing low, sweet chariot.

On the other hand, Dorie’s Tiramisu Cake is made of two layers of light, buttery cake brushed with an espresso-Kahlua syrup and filled with a creamy mixture of mascarpone, whipped cream and a little espresso. There’s also a layer of finely chopped chocolate in the middle, mainly for color.

The assembly is quick, and the cake is much lighter than the original dessert – both in flavor and in the fact that you can actually stand up after eating a slice. Coffee-lovers will probably want to double the syrup to truly soak the cake and amp up that coffee-and-Kahlua flavor. Also … I think it needs the ladyfingers. Next time I try this recipe, I’ll replace the top cake with a layer of delicious, delicate, Kahlua-carrying ladyfingers.

Because we go way back.

Tiramisu Cake

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From My Home to Yours”


  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
    Espresso Extract:

  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
    Espresso Syrup:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto, Kahlua or brandy
    Filling and Frosting:

  • 1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 2 ½ ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or about ½ cup store bought mini chocolate chips
    Garnishes (optional):

  • Chocolate covered espresso beans, for decoration (optional)
  • Cocoa powder, for dusting
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
  2. For the Cake: In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled.
  4. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in three additions and the buttermilk in two (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans, and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake for 28-30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool then for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.
  6. For the Espresso Extract: Stir the espresso powder and boiling water together in a small cup until blended. Set aside.
  7. For the Espresso Syrup: Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Pour the syrup into a small heatproof bowl and stir 1 tablespoon of the espresso extract and the liqueur or brandy; set aside.
  8. To Make the Filling and Frosting: Put the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla and liqueur in a large bowl, and whisk just until blended and smooth. Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir about one quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch.
  9. To Assemble the Cake: If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Place one layer right side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected with strips of wax or parchment paper.
  10. Using a pastry brush or a small spoon, soak the layer with about one third of the espresso syrup. Smooth some of the mascarpone cream over the layer – use about 1 ¼ cups – and gently press the chopped chocolate into the filling.
  11. Put the second cake layer on the counter and soak the top of it with half of the remaining espresso syrup. Then turn the layer over and position it, soaked side down, over the filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.
  12. For the frosting, whisk 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of the remaining espresso extract into the remaining mascarpone filling. Taste the frosting as you go to decide how much extract you want to add. If the frosting looks like it might be a little too soft to spread over the cake, press a piece of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate it for 15 minutes or so. Refrigerate the cake, too.
  13. With a long metal icing spatula, smooth the frosting around the sides of the cake and over the top.
  14. If you want to decorate the cake with chocolate-covered espresso beans, press them into the frosting, making concentric circles of beans or just putting some beans in the center of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours before serving. Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with cocoa.